Crime in San Leandro is probably going to increase Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli told City Council members at a special session Monday night.
Spagnoli said the reason for this prediction can be traced to a 2009 federal court order telling California to reduce overcrowding in state prisons.
In April, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill (AB 109) to bring the state into compliance by pushing some future convicts back down onto county jails.
As its part in this process, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors recently finalized a plan to put 848 non-violent felons on probation over the next three years to the Oakland Tribune reported.
The buzzword for this process is realignment and Spagnoli said she and other law enforcement officials see a predictible outcome.
"We know we're going to see the impact of crime going up in the cities," she said.
Spagnoli said a high percentage of offenders put back on the streets will likely go back to crime because they have so few options.
She told of being at a luncheon on the realignment process where, unbeknownst to her and other police officials, each table included a couple of ex-felons.
She said she came away from that event with a new appreciation for what it's like to get released from jail with $800, be unable to get a job with a felony record and probably be without a car to get around.
"They get back into the (criminal justice) system because it's easier," Spagnoli said of repeat offenders. "They get three meals and a shower."
Purpose of meeting was a year-end department review
The discussion on realignment was just one slice of a meeting that lasted over three hours and was meant as a year-end review of the department's performance.
Police officials spent about 90 minutes giving a prepared display. The rest of the meeting was devoted to council member questions and discussion.
In two highlights of the presentation:
-- Spagnoli said about 33,000 San Leandrans live in 137 apartment communities, and these multi-unit dwellings are often crime hot-spots. Police are working with 86 apartment complexes on crime prevention programs and she hopes to bring those successful programs to the rest.
-- The department is now getting an increasing percentage of 911 requests from mobile phones. Mobile calls used to be routed through a regional switchboard but now mobile calls made in San Leandro go directly to local dispatchers.
That's good because it can speed response when a caller uses a mobile phone to request assistance on the street.
But cellular calls don't give the exact location of the caller, unlike those made from land lines. As a result, emergency dispatchers must spend more time asking mobile callers where they are.
The increasing percentage of mobile 911 calls combined with the extra time-per-call have reduced the department's response rate in a key metric.
The state wants 95 percent of 911 calls to be answered within 3 rings. San Leandro is now at 84 percent.
Council voices many thanks and a few questions
Council members found little to dislike in the department's presentation, and were uniformly complimentary of the its performance.
Mayor Stephen Cassidy asked Spanoli whether San Leandro was a safer community than it was a year ago.
She said 2010 was a 30-year low for crime, not just in San Leandro but statewide.
He asked for her three top issues as chief.
She listed crime, especially violent crime which she linked to realignment; traffic complaints which are perennial; and youth issues and "latch key kids."
"Kids either get into trouble or they become victims of crime" when they're out on the street unsupervised, she said.
Cassidy touched on a number of other issues: fear of burglaries among homeowners; a desire for more diversity in police force hiring; the necessity for a SWAT team; and whether there could be more civilian oversight when San Leandro police are asked to assist other cities to quell disturbances, such as has occurred on at least three occasions during Oakland and Berkeley Occupy protests.
Spagnoli said neighborhood watch programs were the most effective deterrent against burglaries. She pledged committment to hiring diversity but said race and gender are not factored into decisions. She said the SWAT team was used 11 times this year in San Leandro, which she described as a high use that justified its continuance.
Spagnoli took issue with Cassidy's comment that he wanted to probe the willingness of fellow council members to provide more civilian oversight to some of the requests for San Leandro officers to be deployed in other cities.
"These phone calls come at 1:30 in the morning and we have to respond by 4:00 am," she said.